Open Road Press

Expect the Unexpected August 4

When we awoke to a flat tire, our Achilles heel as a bicycle touring couple was exposed yet again. We can push our way through heat and persevere through long days or challenging climbs; we can crank out trip updates on the computer and take care of other daily chores with great efficiency. But as Debbie described on yesterday’s blog entry, when it comes to tending to the mechanics of a bicycle, neither of us shine. The immediate question was: why did Debbie’s front tire deflate in the night? Did this relate to the old tire that was installed the day before? She had gone seven miles on that replacement without incident.

Debbie and I have come to appreciate that a long bicycle tour will always include some unexpected challenges. In many respects, the lessons taught in touring reflect life itself. We all encounter surprises along our life’s trek. So one must expect the unexpected and deal with it as best we can.

I replaced the tube and we left the motel. Less than a mile down the road, the tire flatted again. We pulled into a U-Haul rental yard and immediately looked for some shade to figure out what to do next. Debbie suggested, perhaps initially in jest, that we take them up on their $19.95 daily special and drive the bikes to the bike shop, which was about five miles away. That really didn’t seem like a bad idea until she inquired within. The cost would have been much higher and the attendant explained that we would just be stuck in traffic anyway. It would be much quicker to travel by bicycle—that is, if we could get the bicycle roadworthy. And the notion of hiring a taxi to transport one of us to the shop with the afflicted wheel would have been an expensive proposition in Saturday’s traffic jam on Route 17.

The second replacement proved more successful. But with lagging confidence, we still doubted whether the air would hold. Was the tire the source of the problem and should it be replaced? A call to the bike shop suggested this tire should be fine if the tube was properly replaced. We decided to forego the additional mileage to the bike shop and proceed to today’s route.

Once we had arrived back on our intended route, a strong wind from the south encouraged us. We found the ride was hillier, but equally as curvy as our prior Virginia days. Of all the regions we have cycled through, we think Virginia offers the best cycling of any state on our tour thus far. The optimal Virginia cycling, however, had been further south of us, before we had begun to approach the urban areas outside of Washington, DC.

Late in the afternoon, we met with Mark and Debbie Bryant, and their friend, Frank, from the Miami area. Mark was pastor of a church I attended in Bangor for many years. We spent much time together when we were younger. It was great to catch up and introduce our Debbies! We each married a Debbie in recent years and had not met each other’s spouse. We enjoyed catching up and learning what God has been doing in each of our lives. It was great to reconnect.

We cycled to Woodbridge, a good staging area for tomorrow’s ride. There is great anticipation as we travel toward our nation’s capital, and then right through its heart. There are bike paths through most of the city, which our maps utilize. There is some trepidation, but also some excitement and curiosity about cycling through this major city with its significant tourist features on display. We are glad our bicycles have been repaired and trust they will be up for the challenge.

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